Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Petition demands council disbands ALMO

More than 1,000 people have signed an online petition calling on a council to disband its arm’s length management organisation.

Islington Council is currently carrying out a review of the management of its 35,000 homes. The council is considering whether to disband ALMO Homes for Islington and bring management in-house, change the ALMO’s role, or transfer management to another organisation.

It has ruled out a stock transfer to a housing association. A decision is expected to be taken in November.

A website, DisbandHFI.org.uk, which has the backing of Islington Leaseholders Association, is calling for the ALMO to be scrapped to improve service delivery and save money. More than 1,100 people have signed a petition arguing for HFI to be disbanded. ILA argues that the ALMO is ineffective, inefficient and unaccountable.

The petition says: ‘Councils across the country are winding up organisations like HFI, recognising that they do not represent best value for public money, and bringing management of council housing back under direct council control.

‘We need genuine accountability instead of token box-ticking exercises to retain HFI, an organisation which does not have residents’ interests at heart.’

The opposition Liberal Democrat group on the council last October called for a referendum on whether the ALMO should be scrapped. This was rejected by cabinet member for housing James Murray and the Labour group.

James Murray, Islington Council’s executive member for housing, said: ‘The petition sets out very clearly the position of those people who signed it. We will take it into account alongside the responses of nearly 3,000 tenants and leaseholders who responded to the council’s consultation on the future of housing management in Islington.

‘The council’s consultation, which will continue into September, has been overseen from the start by a residents panel who have had independent advice on how to run the process.

‘Our final decision will be lead by the views of tenants and leaseholders, in the context of priorities that include getting value for money in difficult financial times and building new council housing.’

Readers' comments (45)

  • Rick Campbell

    1,368 signatures is a good start, perhaps that number might attract some publicity, which in turn might encourage others to sign a 'hard-copy' petition to present to the council?

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  • Petition nuts/bolts apart, for many it’s the huge HFI fantasy bills taxpayers, tenants & leaseholders are hit by which gives the patience to manage to sign this e-petition. ‘Fantasy’ as not properly identifying, separating out costs whopping Borough bills are divided, sub divided down by HFI into leaseholder bills including much they have no benefit of nor are legally financially responsible for. How can any such expenditure be properly scrutinised, controlled, accounted for? Akin to choosing a new coat but being charged by the shopkeeper for most of the other shoppers’ various purchases too with the threat you will be prosecuted if you don’t pay.
    That such management might stroll into the building/development arena fills most with despair. Even when putting aside the documented costly serious damage to buildings, the unnecessary works whilst under HFI’s stewardship.
    There’s a word for knowingly demanding money with threats when you know it’s not due – slips my mind. Those shivering during winter nights, their heating turned off by HFI probably have other words too.

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  • This debate is clearly part of bigger issues in Islington as to why it has been created, of which I have no specific knowledge.

    Yet it seems strange that the petitioners appear to forget that if HFI is brought back under full council control it will still have the same employees by virtue of TUPE.

    One of the ironies of the whole stock transfer bandwagon was that tenants willingly voted (and logically correctly) to transfer as this freed up the DH money and so their properties were able to be maintained and updated as they should have been, but were not allowed to be, in the first place. New kitchen, bathrooms etc. Yet when the same tenants saw that the staff were exactly the same they got a shock.

    The calls to bring back the service in-house is this in reverse.

    The DH money will have been well spent (not the same as spent well please note) and so tenants may have had upgrades to their properties but will still face the same constraints on day-to-day issues as they did when it was council run.

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  • Jack Davies points out staff transference under TUPE. Abolishing HFI (a Ltd Company), returning functions to the Council restores responsibility and information access fully with/to Councillors. They too should sleep much better. Right now Councillors have the legal/electoral responsibility without either the full control, knowledge they should have. HFI’s audits are not the wide, more comprehensive financial audits which Council itself is rightly subject to as spenders of taxpayers’ monies. (HFI’s audits are commercial audits.) Jack D comments on tenants voting for HFI. The then leaseholders (third housing stock) voted but their votes were not, not counted in. Yes, lots of shocks in Islington & quite a few following the recent PricewaterhouseCoopers special investigation results: eg lack of proper HFI monitoring of PFI work; leaseholders heavily overcharged. Jack’s right, there’s lots of issues behind the conclusion stated in the Petition. Serious, costly and highly detrimental issues. Am surprised that Councillors went for an ALMO, no matter how many £millions were dangled, their position is like driving blindfolded a gigantic coach and horses with no reins. Astonishment too that Council gave HFI virtually carte blanche to take over all Council’s contracting capabilities. All would be quiet were the results OK but sadly it’s quite the reverse.

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  • My question is simple one,if the la's had done such a good job,why up and down the country did tenants vote to leave and form housing assc?maybe it had a lot to do with what had gone before NO INVESTMENT IN HOMES some memories are so short.

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